ARN's lead feature this week is the story Com Tech didn't want you to read. Now, that's unusual, because Com Tech isn't one for knocking back press coverage. However, this year the integrator tried very hard NOT to get coverage for its annual Open Systems Forum in ARN. Why? The Forum has become very important, as a way to differentiate itself. And Com Tech doesn't think it's in its interests to let its competitors find out what they get up to during those three days at Coolum.
It is right that the Forum is a differentiator for it. Having attended a number of the events, I can vouch that not only are they a blast but that they're always extremely useful as a way to network and brush up on the industry and technology. Many of you would know this, because the Forum was originally a reseller event. And Com Tech gets amazing mileage out of it, too. It's written up extensively in the press, customers and potential customers go home with nothing but positive vibes about the company and wild stories and gossip circulate for months.
Despite all this, I don't think Com Tech is making the right decision to try and hide the Forum from the channel. And it's not even because it doesn't work. We still got the story and you can bet Com Tech's real competitors have heard all about it, anyway. Knowing how the grapevine in the networking industry works, you can be assured that Anixter, Anite and Memorex Telex knew all the goss even before the last Com Tech techie trudged home.
The real reason Com Tech is wrong, though, is because it should be just as keen to market itself to the channel. Com Tech's attitude is symptomatic of a major failing of most Australian resellers, integrators and developers. Too often, everyone else is viewed as a potential competitor rather than a potential partner. Vendors have already realised that very often it makes sense to work with your competitors in areas where it benefits you both. The IT industry invented the word "co-opetition". To date, that concept has remained foreign to the channel.
You've read numerous stories in this newspaper, encouraging resellers to get big or get niche. Only a couple can get big. For everyone else future success is going to be about being the best at what you do. The problem with that is it can mean you can no longer provide the overall solution, an increasingly popular demand from customers. If you partner, though, you get business, your partners get business and the customers get a solution. Everyone's a winner.
Other stories in this issue indicate that partnering and co-opetition among resellers is beginning to emerge. I've tended to be sceptical of Netscape in the past, but with the channel model it's putting in place now (page 10), which encourages collaboration among partners, it's back on track. And of course, Gateway (page 1) now wants to cooperate with the resellers it may fight against in other circumstances.